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Look Beyond What You Hear

Michael Hershey
Graduate Assistant, College of Liberal Arts

IC concert

Last fall, the Mount’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts put together an impressive slate of performances, including a concert on the feast day of St. Cecilia, a modernity performance inspired by Black Panther, and a concert featuring classical Russian music juxtaposed with the current war between Russia and Ukraine.

vpa-spring-2023-schedule-in-text.pngThe variety of musical experiences available to the students involved and to the wider campus community is part of what makes the performing arts program at the Mount unique. Mark Carlson, Ph.D., associate professor of music and director of the university’s instrumental ensembles, noted that “the diversity of musical experiences available to students [is impressive]…we’re free to program music from all genres and performance scenarios to expose students to the true grandeur of music.” The diversity in learning experiences allows the students in the department to share this grandeur with others.

For example, the goal of the St. Cecilia’s Day concert was to showcase the acoustics of the sacred venue, the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. As the audience arrived, they were overcome by the blast of the organ heralding them to their seats. The chosen compositions had to be performed in a cavernous space and the chapel did not disappoint! The next performance was by the university’s Wind Ensemble, which was split into cori spezzati, or two groups. The space provided ideal acoustics for the Mount’s Chorale, who performed “Deh Bella e Cara.”

The evening was rounded out by the Wind Ensemble’s performance of Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports.” This piece vpa-2023-in-text.jpgalso challenged the players to explore new instruments, and trumpeters Kevin Ryan and Emerson Clay picked up percussion mallets while Michael Berko learned to play the bass.

At each concert, the Mount’s various ensembles strive to provide a musical experience that goes beyond what one hears. During the “Russia Revisited” concert, Brian Bartoldus, lecturer in music history, took a moment to explain the moral dilemmas that artists and musicians must face when drawing inspiration and performing certain works.

 “This idea is the central concept of this program: to decry the ongoing war in Ukraine, celebrate Russian music as separate from the current Russian state but also to acknowledge the subjective difficulties in doing so,” Bartoldus said. The program featured Russian and Ukrainian pieces to emphasize the exquisite cultural bonds that can be created through art but can be destroyed by politics.

Another unique event, a concert inspired by “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” was the result of a collaboration between the Department of Visual and Performing Arts and Timothy Fritz, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of History, and Jack Dudley, Ph.D., associate professor of English. The concert explored topics like modern police states, separatist movements and policies, and the genre of Afrofuturism in “Black Panther.” The discussions were paired with performances by the Mount St. Mary’s Lab Band, including songs such as “P. Funk” by Parliament and “Many Moons” by Janelle Monae.

Michael Hershey
Graduate Assistant, College of Liberal Arts